Island Bids Farewell to Graduating Class of 2002

Commencement Exercises Pay Tribute to Largest Graduate Class in


For four years they studied, turned in projects and papers, took too
many tests to count. For two weeks they waited, finals over, state
tournaments played out, summer jobs begun. For several days they
practiced, the marching, the seating, the singing.

In the end it came down to this moment, Sunday afternoon at the
Tabernacle, when the Class of 2002 was graduated from the Martha's
Vineyard Regional High School.

Despite the dictates of tradition, the seniors made this ceremony
their own. They wore the tasseled caps and purple and white gowns
- but also sunglasses and leis and, in one case, a pair of fuzzy
green slippers. They performed original music and spotlighted their star
vocalists to follow the standard Pomp and Circumstance. They batted
beach balls back and forth even as their names were called and diplomas

Salutatorian Calixte Monast opened the day by reflecting on his move
from Cuttyhunk to "the big city" of Martha's Vineyard:
"Everything was different," he said of his move six years
ago. "I couldn't walk to school any more. Cars and buses
became a major part of our life. The West Tisbury School wasn't a
one-room schoolhouse and there was homework and tests and grades and
expectations. Too many changes. I missed my way of life . . . the paths
and secret places I'd spend my childhood years discovering were
far away, as were the people that I'd grown up knowing and
trusting. I felt like a part of me had been left behind. A big part.
Everything I took comfort in, everything that was familiar, was

But with time came adjustment, new friends made, new secret spaces
found. And the final realization: "I had a new Island now, not
necessarily a new home but another one."

Using his experience as comparison, he encouraged his classmates as
they face the changes ahead: "We have to leave the places we have
explored and the secret spots we used to hide in. We have to say goodbye
to a community that helped to raise us. It's time to start a new
life. We will be emissaries to the world, the exciting and mysterious

Following Mr. Monast came class essayist Jonas Budris, who spoke
about the power of words. "Simple words, taken alone, can be
dangerous," he said. "Yet words are precious, too." He
urged his classmates to find time to say the important things to those
who matter most: "Don't waste that chance," he said.
"Words are free and unlimited, but time will run out."

He concluded: "Class of 2002, we have most of our lives left
to name. What we say, how we listen, matters. Each name we give is a
bell that cannot be unrung. Ring carefully."

Superintendent of schools Kriner Cash presented the Vineyarder
Awards to graduates Heather Boyd and Michael Flynn. The awards, he said,
reflected great personal growth during their high school years. Mr. Cash
also gave Mr. Monast the Superintendent's Outstanding Student
Award, calling him "a man of many talents and interests" who
earned his place by "taking the most demanding courses the school

Both the Principal's Leadership Award and Faculty Leadership
Award went to Elise Chapdelaine for her "great leadership in the
Class of 2002 and untiring service to the school and school

After a quartet of seniors performed an a cappella piece of their
own composition, student faculty council president Jacqueline Burgoyne
stepped to the podium. She kept her speech light even as she addressed
the meaning of life, pausing beforehand to put on her "special
speech-giving slippers."

The meaning of life, incidentally, was not to be found in a bright
orange envelope under a chair, though she had the whole class looking.
As she explained, "To understand the meaning of life is to
understand there is no one meaning of life. Every graduate sitting here
today has a mind that is as flexible as Gumby and that can stretch like
a piece of taffy. Sometimes life creates these wacky and superficial
rules and codes that try to make our lives so black and white, but the
beauty of it all is we were made to see in color. And let me tell you,
there are some minds here today that can see in more colors than any
Crayola crayon box could ever give you.

"The meaning of life - even simpler, the meaning of this
moment, right now - isn't the caps and gowns. It's not
the blue sashes or even the milk-white diplomas that will be tied in
gold ribbon. This graduation is so much more about how we've
learned together, partied together, lost and won together."

Miss Burgoyne personalized her speech, addressing certain classmates
with the mysterious references that are the stuff of senior year
memories. Then she asked her fellow students to stand: "The people
on either side of you," she said, "are people who helped
mold the figures you are today. Give them a hug or a handshake."

Valedictorian Jennifer Sepanara spoke about the meaning of
graduation: "Sometimes we run so fast trying to get to the finish
that we forget to live in the present. This must be what a graduation
is. It's not about marching down the aisle in purple and white.
It's not about the end, it's about the journey - a
celebration of footprints.

"And what a journey it's been. High school has had a
unique and different meaning for each of us - the scholar, the
athlete, the artist, the writer, the actor, the musician - each
leaving behind different tracks. And each of us has finished as a
different person than we were when we began."

She continued: "Someday even our footprints will fade. Our
records will be broken; our faces forgotten. Yet long after the wind and
the waves have washed our footprints from the shores, a small part of
the Island and MVRHS will remain in each of us. Every one of us contains
a little bit of everyone else in our personality - whether it be a
friend's laugh or a neighbor's refrain. And, as much as we
may deny it, we can never really leave MVRHS. It is an experience that
is an inextricable part of us."

In her tribute to the senior class, principal Margaret (Peg) Regan
began: "A historian friend of mine once observed that the events
that occur in your 18th year influence the whole of your life. For me,
it was 1968, the year that Martin Luther King was assassinated, the year
that Bobby Kennedy was shot and the year of the My Lai massacre.

"You, the Class of 2002, have also witnessed extraordinary
world changes in your 18th year. The events of Sept. 11 -
something we all bore witness to together in school - has changed
the face of the future of our country, but even more specifically it has
changed you. How this event will affect your decisions about colleges,
careers, living in distant places is not yet apparent. But, perhaps the
most important thing to remember is that this precious human life you
have been given has been enriched by all the suffering - and the
joy - you have experienced in your senior year.

"Such is the preciousness of your life that it has been given
to you not merely to survive the days or the weeks, but rather to
fulfill - fulfill whatever destiny the world gives you. Those of
you who will enrich our world with your art and your music, those who
will perform on athletic fields of the future, those who will raise
beautiful children and send them to MVRHS, Class of 2025, those of you
who simply live to serve others - all of you will birth the new
world full of promise and daring."

Ms. Regan concluded with the advice: "If you have talent,
develop it. If you have compassion, express it. If you have wealth,
share it. And in the memory of all those Americans who bravely gave up
their lives in the events of Sept. 11, devote your lives to benefit one